Mike's Notes: The Essay of Proctor

Posted by Mike Henriques


As a reader, and also one who enjoys the writing process, I think about flow. For me, the way a piece of fiction or an essay moves forward is like watching a dance come together. Well conceived, well written pieces flow, movements sync together, and you feel yourself a part of something bigger, something powerful, something instructive. To create a piece of writing with flow is not a haphazard process. It requires time, patience, and an openness to craft, not unlike what is required of any quality endeavor. When you step into this Proctor community at the end of this week or next week, you become a part of a school and a mission that has been moving forward since 1848. The “flow” of this school has taken over 150 years to create, hundreds of faculty and staff have contributed to it, thousands of students have benefitted from it, but if we think of this as a piece of writing, the essay is still being crafted.

Proctor Academy Boarding School New Hampshire

The word essay comes from the French infinitive “essayer” meaning “to try” or to “endeavor.” It implies that the job is never done, that perfect clarity is just out of reach. Anyone who writes an essay, a poem, a piece of fiction knows that feeling. You strive, but you can always do a better job, always get a little closer to perfection, and that’s not just true in writing or art, but true of any task that we set to and try to complete with the highest quality. There is always something we can tinker with, always something we can improve.  So it is with writing as it is with physics, or French, or metal working, or sailing, or...growing beets. And so it is with schools.

Proctor Academy Boarding School New Hampshire

What has been unfolding here at Proctor since 1848 is still a work in progress. We are still unfinished. The 2018-19 school year is yet another “draft” of Proctor, hopefully a little better than last year’s draft, which was pretty darn good. It is a draft that you will be a part of shaping and you will benefit from living. When I think of the way the school has progressed - and I am not talking about buildings and infrastructure, but more about programs (Mountain Classroom, Proctor in China, neuroscience courses, an ever-growing wellness program…too many to name) and the people behind them (Patty, Susan, Jon, Buz, Karin, Megan, Kyle, Kara, Robin…too many to name) it is inspiring to see the way this community moves forward. Everyone plays a role in creating who we are now and shaping who we will be as we move forward. The only requirement is that you care, you are compassionate, you can listen, and you are willing to work.

Proctor Academy Boarding School New Hampshire

We are all in this next best draft process. We are learning as individuals and as community and we do this together. I am learning right along with you. I know that there are things that I can work on doing better as a head of school. How can I create a community where there is more compassion for the other? Where respect is always the default? Where mistakes are possible and not wholly condemning? Where we are both highly competitive and yet humble?  How can I help this community move forward from the loss of Dave Pilla?

Proctor Academy Boarding School New Hampshire

At our end of year faculty meetings in early June we talked about trying to focus on Proctor’s grounding topics for the year, and I share them with you below:

  • We will work to better guide our use of technology as a learning tool and will seek to set appropriate boundaries on its use in other areas. We, as adults, will work to model the behavior we want to see in others.
  • We will strive to collectively adhere to the rules of the community set forth in the 2018-2019 Green Book so that there is a shared sense of  values and we avoid pockets of inconsistency that can send confusing and conflicting messages.
  • We will work to ensure that our core value of honesty is upheld in all settings.
  • We will continue to sharpen our focus on wellness initiatives, expanding offerings and support particularly with the opening of the new wellness space in Farrell Field House in December.

Proctor Academy Boarding School New Hampshire

We have been doing these things all along, but we feel like we can always create the next best version within Proctor, always get a little better in these area.  And now it is time to get going, time for Wilderness Orientation, time for pre-season, and time for that first assembly in the Meeting House. We need that energy of working together. I am excited about this new year, its possibilities, and the opportunity to create this next best version of Proctor.

From all the faculty and staff at Proctor, welcome back!


Mike Henriques P'11, P'15

Proctor Academy Head of School

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